"Complex Dualities Through a Child’s Eyes"
What You Need To Know:
I’M NOT SCARED poses some interesting questions but stops just short of exploring them at a satisfying depth. Despite its smattering of strong foul language, it can serve as a springboard for discussion about objective morality and the importance of sticking to principles.
(H, B, LL, V, A, D, M) Humanist elements in which morality is overlooked so that life can be “lived to its fullest,” with expressions of biblical morality; 19 obscenities (including six uses of the “f” word) and one profanity; child slaps another child, mother protects son from attacker and is wrestled to ground, and father accidentally shoots son; no sex or nudity; father frequently smokes cigarettes, and he asks child to retrieve a bottle of wine; and, group kidnaps and holds hostage child of rich parents, one child bullies and intimidates the rest of the group to make them perform dangerous stunts, and child disobeys kidnapper-father in order to save another person’s life.
I’M NOT SCARED is a thoughtful, interesting work that provides an alternative definition for the term “adult movie”: it is a movie for adults because it possesses a subtlety and depth that children might not understand, not because it is totally unfit for them.
The movie is about Michele, a 10-year-old boy growing up in rural southern Italy in the 1970’s. While playing in a field one afternoon, he stumbles across a hollow space in the ground. Michele peers in and sees a human leg sticking out from a blanket. He cannot shake the image of the leg, so he goes back some days later.
It is boyhood curiosity and not heroism that compels Michele to return several times to the hole. Eventually he meets the boy inside, who has been stuck in the dark, damp cavern for weeks. Due to neglect, the boy cannot open his eyes and can barely speak. He is also covered with dirt and sores. Michele sees the boy as a sort of pet and brings him food.
Noticing the strange behavior inside his house lately, Michele stays up one night to eavesdrop on his parents and their friends. He fatefully learns that much of his village is involved in the effort to hold this boy, Filippo, hostage after kidnapping him from his rich north Italian family. It’s at this point that the story becomes really interesting – more than a simple mystery.
The audience gets to observe Michele as he must confront the idea that the family and neighbors whom he loves and trusts are the same people who kidnapped Filippo and shackled him in a deep underground cellar. How does anyone, much less a 10-year-old, understand sharp dualities like that one? How can Michele understand that the father who loves him, teaches him, and plays with him is capable of such grisly acts?
Then, the conflict arises. Michele must decide whether to protect his family or protect the kidnapped boy, whose life is suddenly in immediate danger. It becomes a problem of morality versus affection, charity versus loyalty. In the end, the life of the boy is more important than his parents being found by police or even the risk that Michele himself will get in trouble. And, for his courageous act, he does pay a price.
Because Michele is 10, however, his decision is less a reasoned one than an instinct, although it is clear that he is operating on some principle instead of pure emotion. I’M NOT SCARED examines tough moral choices, but it does so without any religious and only minimal critical, reasoned moral framework. The movie, therefore, opens some interesting questions – questions very similarly raised by David Lynch in TWIN PEAKS and BLUE VELVET – but the movie fails to explore them to a satisfying depth.
I’M NOT SCARED makes a great springboard for family discussions about objective morality and when to stick to principles (i.e., all of the time). Because the movie’s tone is so straightforward, it is easy to use the characters and events as illustrations. The six utterances of the F-word warranted an R rating from the MPAA, but without that handful of foul language, it would be in light PG-13 territory.